Presented on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus.
During and after his 1866 visit to Hawai'i, Mark Twain wrote about the place, its people, and their relationship to the United States in several different genres: newspaper articles, first as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union (1866) and then for other papers, including the New York Herald; a poplar lecture titled "Our Fellow Savages of the SandwichIslands" (1866-1873); two travelogues, Roughing It (1872) and A Tramp Abroad (1880), and an unfinished novel (1884). In his talk, Todd Thompson will investigate the comic strategies he employs in these works - particularly self-effacement, satiric levelling, comic foils, physical comedy, and sarcastic irony - to show how Twain leveraged the ambivalence of social humor to stoke Americans' interest in Hawai'i while simultaneously defending Hawaiians from "other"-ing stereotypes that - even as early as 1866 - he saw as intimately tied to Americans imperialist urges.
Todd Nathan Thompson is associate professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he also serves as assistant chair of the English department. He is author of The National Joker: Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Satire (Southern Illinios University press, 2015). Thompson's work on political satire and pre-1900 American literature has also appeared in Scholarly Editing, Early American Literature, ESQ, Nineteenth-Century Prose, Journal of American Culture, Studies in American Humor, Teaching American Literature, the Blackwell Companion to Poetic Genre, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on a new book project entitled Savage Laughter: Nineteenth-Century American Humor and the South Seas.